Translate

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Electric Motor Install: Part IV: In the Water

....and if you haven't figured it out yet, these headings don't really mean a whole lot.

Yesterday we removed the Kayak that was supporting the wheel--which took a bit of finagling--and lowered it into the water for the first time. 

Mercifully, it hits the water evenly and at the right depth
Of primary concern was the depth of the buckets at their lowest position.  Ideally, they should be about 2" below the water surface.  If we were far off that, we'd have to remove and reposition where the wheel was attached to the stern.

Happily, once we got it off of flotation and let it down, the bottom bucket was almost EXACTLY 2" below the surface. 

Occasionally, I win one.

So today we'll get chain cut and make the supports permanent (at present it's hanging from the blue lines you see above).  We'll wire up the motor and see if she works properly.  Look for a test on the water today or tomorrow if that goes well.

Wish us luck.

More Shortly

M

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Electric Motor Installation Part: the third

FINALLY a fortuitous conjunction of tides, weather, help, and sunshine made it possible for us to get the wheel in place.

These chain supports will support the aft end of the wheel frame and will allow for adjustment.
Here's the stern, cleared and ready for the wheel.  The wiring is leading out the old engine exhaust tube on the Starboard side.
we dropped the wheel off the dock and onto our Intex kayak, which let us line it up with the old mounting holes that had been the outboard mount.  The thing is now firmly connected to the stern.

here's a shot from Port, showing the kayak step on the side of the wheel.  The aft lines supporting eh back of the wheel frame will be replaced with chain as soon as we're sure of the lengths.
With help from a nice slipmate, we rolled the wheel off the dock onto our Intex Kayak, which let us get is lined up with the stern far more easily than what I'd originally planned (Thanks Gail), snugged it over, and got it lag bolted in place. 

Tomorrow, of course, they're predicting rain, but when that clears, we'll pull out the kayak, set the depth for the wheel, hook up the wiring, and try the thing out.

Wish us luck.

We actually have gotten rather a lot done while waiting on weather and tides.  We made a lovely batch of Perry (think hard cider, but from pears), and did a lot of resetting of lines to make room for the wheel.

We bottled the Perry on Halloween night.  Initial tastes are promising, I can tell you.
We spent Samhain evening with friends, toasting the Pagan New Year.  Hope it's a much better one for all of us.

Happy Samhain!
Oh, by the way, we both voted:

Go do this
You should really go do that.  Really.  It's important.

More shortly,

M

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Electric Motor Install 3.somethingsomethingsomething

Finally a nice day and we managed to get some work done in getting the wheel ready to mount.
Everything you see that isn't red (yet) is carbon steel and has to be painted.

We used the nice weather to do the last of the touch up painting and to get some rust preventative paint (which mercifully matches the wheel) on all the steel parts that aren't stainless, those being the driveshaft, flanges, and pillow blocks.

We also got the motor mounted.  Here it is covered with plastic while we finish painting.

Here you can see the pillow block bearing, driveshaft, and connecting sleeve all painted.

The beast is now ready to install.
So today I'll install two strong eye-bolts to the wheelhouse frame for the support chains (we'll start with line until we're sure of the length) and then, hopefully (tide and wind cooperating) we'll get this puppy on and working over the weekend.

Wish us luck.

More shortly.....one hopes.

M

Monday, October 15, 2018

Of composting toilets and rain

No, we haven't forgotten about you.

We're still sitting here halfway through the paddlewheel installation, but every day this week it's either been raining, thinking about raining, threatening raining, just having rained, or too windy to get anything done.  Hopefully, after today, we'll have five or six days of decent weather and can make some progress.
Magellan is REALLY bored with all this rain.

It's life on a boat.  You deal with nature.  It's part of what we love about it, but it can get in the way sometimes.

In that regard:

I've noticed of late a LOT of interest in the Composting Toilet/Urine Diverter/Toilet build info posts.  I mean, rather a lot.  Would you guys be interested if we put together a little Ebook combining all the information we've learned from the start of the original Floating Empire on composting toilets and their care and . . .um. . .feeding?  We'd probably stick in on kindle or somesuchwhat for download.

Let me know in the comments if its a go.

More shortly, I promise.

M

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Electric Motor Install 2. i forget

So, rather racing to get a bit ahead of hurricane-induced rainstorms and wind (shouldn't be too bad here, but we will get wet Thursday) we did manage to get the frame and the wheel mated and all the keys in their respective keyways.

Port side, with the platform for accessing the kayak.

Starboard side.  Motor mounts at center.
I have to admit, I was really pleased.  Gail and I picked up the wheel and frame and spun the wheel.  It just kept going and going.  So the bearings are good and we've obviously got them aligned properly with the shaft.

So tomorrow will likely be a waste. Friday we'll still have some winds but it's likely the rain will be done and we can do the last of our touchup painting, then, hopefully with some help, we'll try to get her on Saturday or Sunday.

If you're in the path of Michael, stay safe.  It's a big storm.

More shortly

M

Monday, October 8, 2018

Electric Motor Install Pt. 2.3.4

Okay, due to some really unpredictable weather, some minor health issues (okay, we broke a pair of glasses), and some general ennui, we've not exactly been surging ahead, but we have made some real progress in the installation of the wheel.

Okay, so I'm never happy with how fast these things go.....or realistic about how fast they CAN go.



Getting the driveshaft keyways aligned is a bit tricky.
We got the drive shaft in to align the flanges that connect it to the wheel.  It's a bit tricky as the keyways in the flanges and the keyway in the drive shaft all have to align, but we got it to work.  Hopefully when we go to put it all back together, I can do this without a sledgehammer.  FYI the driveshaft and flanges, like the motor shaft, are 7/8" steel with a 1/8" keyway.

The frame assembled and laid out with the driveshaft and pillow blocks.
We got the frame for the wheel assembled and fitted the pillow blocks and shaft to it.  You can see, it's not symmetrical.  The motor hangs off the starboard side of it (to your left in this picture.)  The larger framed space on the right will be a sort of swim platform to help get on and off the kayak.  It also will help counterbalance the weight of the motor.

Today, if the rain holds off, we'll get a bit of the last bits of painting done and get the whole thing assembled, looking for an installation tomorrow or the next day.

Weather and ennui permitting.

Stay Tuned.

M

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Electric Motor Install, Pt II, the Wheel

So yesterday we completed the paddlewheel (the test one, anyway).  The wheel is 3.5 feet in diameter and has six two foot buckets (paddles). 

Cutting the sides of the wheel.
The lumber bill at the moment looks like this:  One sheet of 3/4" exterior plywood, three 1" x 8" x 8' clear boards for the buckets, 3 treated 2" x 4" x 8's for the frame, and a piece of 2" x 2" x 8' for the blocks to support the buckets.

No, this is tragically not a lost Calder sculpture.  It's the blocks that will support the buckets (paddles)
Multiple coats of a good exterior paint starts the paint process.
aaaaaaand paint all over the damn place.
laying out a hexigon to align the buckets. 
So we used the quasi reliable radius method to lay out six equidistant points on each side rim and then struck a line connecting them to be able to mount the bucket supports evenly.

Blocks in place.  Note that each side must have the blocks on the opposite side of their alignment marks than the other.  I got paranoid about this, checked it five or six times, STILL got it wrong and had to remove and replace the blocks.  Take care.
Here is the beast assembled:


So today we will fit the drive shaft to the assembled wheel and begin assembling the frame that supports it.

Stay Tuned.

M

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Keeping it Together

So, I've a lot of pictures and text and so forth on the new paddlewheel construction, which I'll post in a day or so, but--not at all based on anything I saw on the docks yesterday, mind you--this has been on my mind.

So, after thinking about this a bit, watching my slipmates, especially the newbies, deal with their boats and the water, I thought I would pass this along. Here are six, potentially disasterous things you can easily avoid on the water. Take them to heart and you'll be a lot less frustrated, I promise you.

First: The “Three Point Rule” is paramount. Whenever moving on, or getting off or on the boat, keep three points of contact at all times: two feet and a hand, two hands and a foot. . . avoid if at all possible stepping off the boat with both hands full. It's a formula for a fall. Boat decks can be slippery. Boats move, often suddenly and unexpectedly. Make sure you're ready and capable of coping with that if it happens.

Second: This is a boat, not a baseball field. Don't toss things unless there's no other option. In my time living aboard I've seen keys tossed from boat to dock (they missed, prompting an expensive locksmith visit and the even more expensive replacement of a wireless car key set), along with cell phones (they smashed) and a whole host of caps, floats, plates, tools, and assorted detritus, all of which either currently resides on the bottom below the docks or floated off downstream. HAND things off, and insist on the recipient saying “thank you” (an old Boy Scout trick) acknowledging they've got control of the item before you let go.

And in that regard: If you've got your cell phone, keys, etc. in your pocket or in your bag, you are unlikely to drop them off the dock. Wait until you hit dry land before you just HAVE to begin texting aunt Edna. I've seen some amazing juggling acts with keys and phones as people whip them out on the dock only to lose control of them.

Third: TURN OFF YOUR DOCK WATER WHEN YOU LEAVE!. I know of three boats now that sank, not because of leaks, but because the fresh water line from the dock was left on and a fitting broke aboard, filling the boat with water.

Fourth: Never, EVER wind a line around your hand when you're pulling it. You won't be able to let go quickly if you need to. I've seen hands smashed betwixt boat and dock because they were pulled down by the line they were holding and couldn't let go.  I actually learned this one working for years in the theatre, working in what's called a "hemp loft" stage. . . .ropes and sandbags.  I've seen more than one stagehand literally jerked off the ground because they couldn't let go of a line connected to waaaaaay too much counterweight.

Fifth: It's a boat. You're outside a lot. If you were camping, you'd wear sun block, bug spray, hats, sunglasses. . .all things to protect yourself from the elements. You need to do that on board. Reflection off the water can blast you with sunlight you aren't aware you're getting. Wind and salt can sap you of hydration, heat can do likewise. Pay attention to your body and what your surroundings are doing to it.

And Lastly: It's a boat. I know it doesn't happen often, but you can sink, you can fall overboard, hit your head, and drown. The ocean demands respect, and you forget that at your peril. Pay attention and you'll have a lovely time. Fail to and you may get an emergency room visit. . . .if you're lucky.

Nuff said.

M

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Electric Motor install Pt. 1.7.4.Grrrrrr

The haul and hang.

So on a rare (lately anyway) sunlit day and in our right minds and everything we loosed Tesla's Revenge from the docks and the marina used the bum boat to take her to the lift well.  Thanks to Florence, we had LOTS of water in which to float.

On pulling the boat out of the water, there was, indeed, quite a bit of growth on the prop and propshaft, which we promptly removed.  Then we turned the prop by hand, and low and behold, it turned!
There wasn't TOO much growth on the hull.....honest


But what was that weird noise?  There was a bit of grinding--expected that with the cutlass bearing out of the water--but there was also this bizarre ping-ing noise, like a spring or something being plucked.

So we got out the ladder and I climbed up into the boat and then down into the all-too-familiar depths of the motor space.

Did I mention at any point that electric motors are torque-y as hell?  I mean, most gas motors hit their torque peak around 1500 rpm, but an electric. . . . an electric hits it essentially at 0rpm.

So when I crawled under I realized that the reason that the motor had seemed labored was that it was, indeed, turning the propshaft even with the zebra mussel and barnacle growth on it.  It was also turning the stuffing box, the stuffing box bellows, and all the clamps:  the whole damn assembly had been rotating.  The "ping" sounds I had been hearing was from the loose ends of the hose clamps going round and round.  It was a wonder we weren't taking on water apace.

On further examination we realized that a former owner had shortened the drive shaft by several inches to facilitate mounting a different motor and transmission.  That unfortunately left too little room to mount the pillow block the system really needs to be in alignment.

So we put the thing back together, and got back in the water.

Aaaaaaand we're back to square one.

So, after considering the costs of what we would need to do to make this work with the existing drive, we've decided to go back to plan A).  To build the sternwheel we originally wanted to built.  I currently have all the parts, bearings, and fittings, and will have the wood at the end of this week.

Wish us luck.

more very shortly.

M

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Electric Motor Install part I.5

Well, just to give you guys a little update, here's what's happening with the install on our electric drive system. 

4.7 KW motor with coupling adapter
So our new motor mount, the motor, and the coupling adapters went in with a lot less grief than I'd expected.  We loosened the packing nut on the drive shaft as per youtube, hooked up the wiring, and fired the thing up. . . .low and behold, it worked!  It turned beautifully. . . .for about 12 seconds.  Then something in the motor controller fried and that was it. 

sigh....

So we ordered a new one, waited till it showed up, installed the thing, and tried again. 

It worked as well.  But we noticed that the turning of the prop shaft was somewhat. . .um. . labored, and that the new unit was heating up rather quickly.  I crawled back under the cockpit and tried to turn the shaft and it took all my effort to be able to move it at all.

Not the idea, folks.

I re-loosened the packing nut. . .rather more than I was comfortable with.  Same result.

So something is binding the propshaft, which leaves us basically four options:  1) it's out of alignment.  Possible, but having messed with it, nothing I did seemed to help it turn better.  2) The packing gland is still too tight, which is also possible, but I'm leery of backing it off any more as the water flow into the boat is about as much as I'm comfortable with.  3)  We've been in the water, not moving, for a year now.  This area has a lot of Zebra mussels.  It's possible we've just got a lot of growth on the propshaft, cutlass bearing, and in the prop shaft log that are inhibiting movment.  or 4) the prop shaft is bent.

Okay, so I thought the best way to eliminate #3 would be to go down and look, so I found my mask and went into the water to see what the situation might be.

The situation was dark.  No, I mean that literally:  our hull is black, we've a lot of duckweed growing around the slips in the marina, and since it's been raining, there's a lot of crap in the water.  I couldn't see a damn thing.

Ah, well. . . .

So, next week we're doing a haul and hang to see what the prop looks like, pulling the boat over to the well and putting it up on a sling so we can work on it out of the water for a few hours.  That should tell us quite a bit.

Stay tuned

M

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hurricane Florence

Be careful out there.




We are, happily, well north of where this thing is supposed to hit, but please, PLEASE if you're in it's path don't get all macho on us an decide to "stick it out".  If you'll note, this thing is likely to slow down when it hits the coast and to pound NC/SC's coastlines for a full THREE DAYS.  Either sail out of it's way, pull your vessel, or go get a hotel room.  Either way, be safe.

Feel free when this is over and we see what has happened to the barrier islands to send a poisoned pen letter to those NC legislators who, in 2012 made it literally illegal to consider this kind of thing in zoning and planning because it "got in the way of development".  Bah.

Be safe.

M

Monday, September 10, 2018

Dining Aboard


This happens all the time: someone takes one look at our boat and pipes up “Guess you guys eat out a lot, huh?”

um, not really.

For the record, we rarely eat out. We're former restauranteurs, and we both love to cook. We cook a lot, and elaborately, and we literally NEVER go for fast food. Why would we? The food we make is so much better (and, of course, healthier and more interesting) than anything any drive-through could offer.
A small galley doesn't mean we cant get interesting.  These are stuffed baby eggplants with a Northern Indian spicing.

The misconceptions about cooking aboard continue to amaze me.

The Galley of Tesla's Revenge has a single burner propane stove. We have a small freezer, a cooler, a small smoker that we use sometimes up on shore, and not a lot of storage space for foodstuffs. Yet, for all that, we manage to crank out of plethora of soups, stews, exotic pot dishes, frittatas. . . a whole range of healthy and interesting dishes despite—and sometimes because of—the limitations. We roast our own coffee. We make our own butter, brew our own Ciders and Ginger beers. We do more in house—and easily and more economically—than most folks with vast kitchens would dream of doing.
Keep your cooking space uncluttered and your tools handy.

So here, gentle reader, are our suggestions of how to make the most of a small galley. As a note, this applies as well to your camper, apartment, or dorm room, just sayin'.

First of all, let go of the idea that you have to do long term menu planning. The lack storage means—rather happily—that you'll be doing a lot of “market shopping,” that is to say, buying what you need for the next few meals, driven by what is local and in season. All that makes for a healthier, tastier diet, and a greater local knowledge of the area in which you're docked. Introduce yourself to your local butcher, your fishmonger, your local farmstand. As a Livaboard, you have a built in interesting story, and folks are generally happy to be part of that. Is there food growing wild near your moorage? We've found crab apples and raspberries and mulberries, dandelion and day lily (not to mention fish and crab, but that's another story entirely) growing happily for the taking near the very heart of the marina. Build your meals around what you find, and let the ingredients shine, adding to them stable staples that you CAN afford the space to store: pastas, grains, nuts, and the like. We don't have a lot of foodstuffs in stowage, We DO have a ton of spices, herbs, sauces, flavorings, and we make liberal use of them.
You'd be amazed what  you can do aboard.  This is a hard cider in the making, made from foraged crab apples.  It was amazing.

Do your prep up front for as many of the dishes as possible so you don't get in your own way. Take the time to think through the process of preparing the meal. What will take the longest to cook? What can sit for a bit and what has to be served right off the burner? What can be brought up to temperature and left aside to continue to cook on it's own (residual heat is your friend). What can be cooked in the same pot, at the same time? It's like a puzzle, like the kind of reverse engineering you have to do when blacksmithing or doing ceramics, and it really rather adds to the enjoyment of preparation.
Compact, versatile tools like stick blenders can stand in for a host of single use kitchen appliances.

In that regard, think of meal components that can be rolled into other meals. Cooking country ribs? Get enough to cook an extra that can be part of a frittata or salad the next day. Your sauteed veggies for lunch can be the basis of a stew for dinner. Think in terms of components rather than meals and menus.
Spectacular food is just a matter of being willing to experiment. . . .that and a good wine merchant.

Don't crowd your galley with a lot of single-use gadgets. Buy good knives, good pots and pans, and make them work (Almost all our cookware is cast iron. It holds heat well and lasts forever, despite the weight). Some compact appliances (I'm a big fan of stick blenders) can do the work of several single use kitchen toys. If you're not using it, get rid of it and use the space for more spices, dried fruits, or another bottle of really good wine. Set up the work flow with the galley sink and your stove and work surfaces so it's comfortable and efficient and so you're not having to do gymnastics to get past one another just to make lunch. It's amusing to watch, granted, and can make for some fun Youtube videos, but after a while saying “excuse me” every six seconds begins to pall. Set up your space so you can work largely from a single position and you'll be a lot happier.

Also get to know some of your slipmates. Sharing dishes in a potluck can make for some great meals, some great friends, and a lot less effort and expense on everyone's part.

And, finally, remember, you objective is your own enjoyment. Food is social, food is entertainment, food can be history and culture and wonderfully reckless experimentation. Let it happen.


More shortly
M

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Setting up a Q and A

Well, for reasons known only to the ISP, our bandwidth this AM is absurdly slow, so I thought a bit of a text update might be do-able if a lot of photos might now.

We're stalled for the moment on the motor install waiting on a part, but as soon as that shows up we'll be doing tests on the system and taking some short trips and I promise to give you full details.

In the meanwhile, I've had a lot of questions lately, especially on solar and composting toilet systems, so we thought we'd put out a call if there was anything you fine folks wanted to know that we haven't addressed.

So please leave your questions in the comments below and we'll port them into a new Q and A post in a few days.  All post will be anonymous, so feel free to ask away.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

New stuff over at Life, Art, Water, btw.

M

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Electric Motor Install, part I

Okay, so this is a bit of a tease.  This motor install is going to take us several days and I'll be updating the blog here as it goes in.

To recap, we're putting a 4.7KW electric motor in the space formerly occupied by an Atomic 4 gas motor.  The motors are of equiv. horsepower (about 12) and drive the propshaft through a stuffingbox.  (If these are new terms to you, believe me, you'll see).

Our good friend Rich welded a frame for us to be able to mount the motor on the original bunks that held the gas engine (which was, of course, massively larger and heavier), and, at the moment, we're tweaking that to make sure the motor will align with with propshaft.

Here's the frame with the motor affixed. Total weight is probably around 50 lbs. You can see how wide the space occupied by the original motor was.
Anyway, stay tuned.  We hope to have this in, up, and working over the next few days.

M

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Things we've successfully used in a composting toilet.

Since someone asked, here are the things we've successfully used as biomass in our composting toilet setup:

1) Wood shavings.  A slip mate gifted us with like eight garbage bags of em after doing some dock work and we used them all winter.  They work well, but are somewhat messy.  Avoid stuff from treated lumber.

2)  Peat Moss.  This works beautifully, comes in huge compressed bricks, and, in general suits the composting process well.  It is also damn messy.  It's a fine brown powder that finds its way everywhere in the boat.  I'd use it if I had few other choices, as it does work, but it can be a pain.

3)  Wood Stove Pellets.

Yep, these guys.
Wood stove pellets in the US are primarily compressed sawdust.  They are compact, store well, and neat to use and, in general, are our fave for the composting toilet.  At something like $5 a bag, they're also pretty cheap.  Try for the ones that don't look like they're oiled or coated.  Broken bags are fine (and dirt cheap) but make sure the stuff isn't damp or you'll find your head abruptly starts smelling.

4) "Natural" cat litter.  AKA  Wood stove pellets.  Same thing generally in a smaller, more expensive bag, but available all summer, which wood stove fuel generally isn't.  Please note:  You can NOT use regular, clay-based cat litter.  It turns into cement and will not compost.

5)  Wood smoker pellets:  AKA Wood stove pellets.  These things are used in automatic meat smokers and are identical to the ones used for heating except these are "food grade."  They work fine and are available all summer and in all climes, but at around $16 a bag, they're pricey.

6)  Sawdust.  Yep, messy, but works fine.

7) Pet bedding:  AKA wood chips.  See #1.

8)  Crushed, dried leaves.  Works in a pinch.  Tends to be a bit high in tannins for the composting process, but works.

Things we have not tried :

Coir (coconut fiber).  I've seen it recommended.  Available in some garden centers in compressed bricks.

Shredded cellulose (wood, paper, etc).  Should work.  Never tried it.

So we're waiting anxiously for our motor mount to get welded so we can get it in and get on the water.  We've gotten a bunch of small stuff done:  installed the transducer for the depth finder, built a small table for the cockpit and, in general, tried to tidy stuff up and make ready to get this beast mobile.

Can't wait.

More shortly.

M

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A quick update

Got the speed controller in today.  All the wiring is now in place and all we have to do is get in the motor mount and we should be good.

Magellan just wishes we would stop moving stuff around.  It's cutting into his nap time.
In addition, we finally got the name and home port on the stern.  It feels oddly fulfilled.

She has a name!


Photos shortly.  Back at it.

M

Friday, July 20, 2018

A Rather Good Day

You know, today went rather well.  Today dawned beautiful and rather cooler than the last few days.  The new power controller for the motor turned up today.  Disgusted with the thing WildernessEV sent us, I just went ahead and ordered one of these Chinese jobs for light electric vehicles.
What the hell?  We gave it a shot.
The unit supposedly will handle 100A at 48 volts  (they say 5000 watts).  When it arrived I was rather surprised how light it was, but then realized that the old unit was one massive aluminum heat sink and this little guy has it's own fan.

Anyway, we hooked it up for a test, and behold, it worked fabulously. Wonderful control of the motor and no over heating, even using paltry 16 Ga. wires for the test.

And, yes, I know the wires are too small.  This was a test to see if it worked, and it did.
Forward, stop, and back.  It all functioned beautifully.  We celebrated by taking a lovely afternoon kayak sortie and by making a great meal:  grilled country ribs with fresh local tomatoes and corn.

All in all, today worked.  Tomorrow, I'll go get some heavier wire for the installation and the iron for the motor mount.

So close I can taste it.

more shortly

M

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Wiring Hell

Ugh.  Okay, so this has been a week of progress and setbacks and frustrations and triumphs and not nearly enough alcohol.  Let me say this up front:  If you were ever considering it (and I know I've spoken kindly of them in a couple posts a few months ago) I don't recommend you do business with WildernessEV.  We purchased most of the drive components from them, and are regretting it now.  With the exception of some wire connectors and the motor itself (which was shipped from the factory directly), everything we received from them was a piece of utter crap.  The motor controller, on careful examination, had been used and mounted before, and when we wired it up, it simply wouldn't power up.  The throttle control had been wired with used speaker wire--no, I'm not kidding--and we never received the reversing contactor for which we paid, despite assurances from them.  Now they won't answer emails or phone calls.
See this lovely motor?  It's the only goddam thing they sent me that worked.

Live and learn.  There's several hundred dollars I'll never see again.

So I bit the bullet and ordered a new motor controller and while we were waiting I figured I would go ahead and pull and mount the lug connectors on the 4ga power cables we need to power the motor.  So right in the middle of doing that, there was a pop and a fizz and the smell of something burning and we suddenly didn't have a working 12 V system.

Sigh.
Place is a wreck while we drag new wiring.

This boat has been rewired something like three times, and each time the former owner LEFT ALL THE FREAKING WIRES IN PLACE FROM THE PREVIOUS WIRING JOB.  As a result, in places there are wrist-thick bundles of wire.  Somewhere in there is one you need.  Get the picture?

I finally got pissed off, and we dragged half of our stuff out of the lazarettes and storage cubbies, ripped out lots of dead wire, and ran new, color coded cables for our 12v system.  In the midst of that we discovered that the step down transformer that drops our 48V system to 12 volts for interior lighting, navigation, etc., was the WRONG UNIT, which is why it fried.

Sigh again.

So I've spent the last three sweaty days crawling through bulkheads and under cabinets running new wire.  My knuckles look like I've been prizefighting and everything else hurts, but now we have working lights, working running lights, a working radio and depth finder, some lovely 12V and USB outlets in the cockpit, and a wiring system that can be comprehended in an emergency.
Finally got the Chartplotter mounted.

Ah well.

There is some good news.  The new motor controller arrives tomorrow, and we got the motor mounts (big chunky neoprene things intended for an air conditioner compressor) yesterday.  We'll be running a test of the motor and controller and then, the gods of electronics cooperating, we'll be doing the install of the motor and it's mount, for which I'll supply full details and pictures.

Today, since stuff was still in shipment, we took the day off.  We went for about three or four miles of kayak ride down the Middle River (visiting our old shantyboat Floating Empire in the process, but I'll save that for another day), and tonight I'll be grilling some bison burgers with fresh local corn from Zahradka's farm and a tomato salad and a nice red wine.

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves why we do this.
The river at nightfall.

More shortly,
and more stuff over at Life, Art, Water

M

Monday, July 9, 2018

More Drive Train Progress

Thought I would give you guys a quick update on some of our recent progress.  Here's a shot of the 4.7 KW motor with the shaft adapters in place.  I was delighted to see they actually fit.

The shaft adapters fit, wonder of wonders.

Here's one with the motor mount fitted.  This thing is gonna be a beast to drag under the cockpit and hook up.
We've got a few nice, less than the center of the sun heat days, so I'm hoping to get all this stuff together and tested.  Today we'll be attaching the connections to the motor controller and checking it out.  Wish us luck.

More shortly

M

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Dealing with Heat

The weather this year has been nuts (and I'm afraid that may be the new normal).  We had something like 14 days of rain in a row, and now we're going into our eighth day of heat warnings, with heat indexes that have soared into the 116-degree (Farenheit, that is.  That's over 46 degrees Celsius) range.  Neither the wife nor I were raised with air conditioning (she in Wisconsin, me in Florida) and neither of us really like it.  As a result, Tesla's Revenge  like Floating Empire before it, has no AC.

yeah.

In any case, weather can change the way you deal with your daily routine, and living on a vessel and that much closer to nature, you feel it more.  Wind knocks you around in the slip or at anchor, heavy rain makes conversations aboard impossible, cold can rather trap you aboard in winter.  As with everything, you adapt, you take the conditions into consideration.  It's a part of living aboard.

Now as to heat:  you have to watch your butt with heat.  It's exhausting. It, like extreme cold, makes even the simplest things more difficult, and like extreme cold, it can kill.  I was returning to the boat yesterday and ran into one of our slip-mates.  He looked like absolute hell.  "I got sick." he said.  He'd been working in the sun, re-doing his hull, sanding, painting. . .he got overcooked.  It happens, but heatstroke is nothing to fool with.  In our friend's case, he retreated to the cabin of his air conditioned boat to recover.  Mulling on it, I realized, we don't have that option.  So I thought I would pass along some of  the ways we deal with the heat, some of the ways we modify our behaviours and schedules to make life livable.

First of all, it must be said, most of the year it isn't an issue.  Water tends to come with it some lovely breezes and moderates the temperatures, even in the tropics.  This week-plus blast of temperature has been an anomaly.   Most of the time, spring, summer, and fall, the temperatures are moderate, the waters refreshing, and it's pretty pleasant.  Sometimes, however, nature fails to cooperate.

We try not to be stupid.  When the heat index is over 100, you're not going to be working on deck, or in enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces.  I don't care how much you "need to get things done" or how much free time you may have to work on the boat, you're not immune to the heat.  Worse, when you do get heat-affected, you tend to get stupid and make poor choices that are at best counterproductive and at worse, dangerous.  When the forecast is "this week, expect the third ring of hell during daylight hours" you need to re-make your schedule accordingly.  Do paperwork.  Read. Nap.  Just accept the fact that, living aboard, you live closer to nature and have to partner with it, even if inconvenient.  I watch our beloved ship's cat Magellan in the heat.  He naps up on shore in the shade and the breeze, or parks himself on the galley table in front of the fan.  I make sure he has lots of water when he needs it.  You need to do the same for yourself.  If you're not behaving like your pets in the heat, you're doing too much.

Magellan is disamused by the heat.
One of the other reasons we have no AC is that Tesla's Revenge is all solar-electric, and power management is an issue.  Air Conditioning compressors eat a lot of power (as does refrigeration ).  We were afraid, with only so much deck space for solar panels, that the draw would be excessive.  Fortunately, there are some simple, low power options.  The market has recently be flooded with a plethora of USB powered fans that can efficiently provide you with spot cooling and can clip anywhere on the boat.

These little 5V USB fans can clip anywhere, take little power, and can make the difference between typing and sticking to your keyboard (which this one is doing at the moment).
 Another great option is the venerable box fan.  They don't eat up a lot of power, move a lot of air, and can flush the hot air out of your entire vessel.  Just position at one end, open the hatch at the other, and let her rip.

A staple in pre-AC days, the box fan is still a durable and effective way of moving air about.


Nights can be a challenge.  There are few things more unpleasant than being there in bed naked, uncomfortable, and bathed in sweat.  Fans, of course, help.  We have, at times, resorted to the "redneck air conditioner" technique of sitting an ice block (frozen water in bags from wine boxes work well btw) in front of a fan.  It's short term and inefficient, but it works.  The heat has led some folks to creating some great DIY versions that are far less wanky and more usable .


.

There are even commercial versions available now


We've used a lot of other techniques, from soaking hats to draping towels over the fans.  All of them work and can make your nights a little less miserable.

And remember, if things get nasty, you're on a BOAT for pity's sake.  MOVE!  Go find some nice cove with a nice breeze and anchor out.

Stay cool, guys.

Of course, some cooling options are better than others. . . .
 More shortly

M

Friday, June 22, 2018

A compendium of small and useful things

Well, having done with my tenure at a big box store to build up some cash for boat revisions and whilst waiting for parts and paperwork to arrive and for my knee to recover from the concrete floors (ow) at work, I thought I'd reflect on some of the small things we've learned this year.  Little stuff, but nontheless important.  Ready?  Here we go.

On Composting Toilets
This was so easy, why didn't we do it sooner?

It really amazes me, now that we have a functioning urine separator, how much of the bulk of human waste coming out of the boat is pee.  Not just by volume, but the bulk of the odor, certainly, is urine.  By comparison, solid waste is virtually undetectable, smell-wise. We wind up emptying the 1.5 gallon urine container about every two days, but the solid waste can go ten days or more, depending on how much we stay on the vessel.  Like I said in an earlier post, we shoulda done the separator ages ago.

On Solar Systems
When it comes to solar systems, size--or at least capacity--DOES matter.

The addition of the new, heavier battery bank has been a bit of a revelation.  Since it's installation, our system has only needed once to go back onto shore power, and that was before the last four of the 100AH batteries were installed and at the end of a period of ten days of rain and overcast this spring.  We were clearly wasting power before, our 650W system generating more power than we could store.  Currently, we're running our lighting, electronics, and refrigeration 24/7 without taxing the system.  So if you're wondering about the configuration for your boat or tiny home, put your cash in the storage.

On Water Systems
Both the pump in the background and the one in the foreground failed within a few months.  Bah!

Manual marine potable water pumps suck (both literally and mechanically).  In The Floating Empire, our water system was a traditional, cast iron pitcher pump, which worked beautifully and without complaint.  We have now been through FOUR hand galley pumps in our current vessel, one piece of Chinese-made crap after another.  None of them has lasted six months.  Some didn't make it six days.  It's dispiriting.  In the next iteration, it's either going to be a pressurized system or back to the cast iron pitcher pump.  At least you can count on them.

On Boat Cats
Magellan rocks.

Get one.  They're adorable.

We're both jonesing to get the boat up and at sea.  More in a couple of days as we get closer to this.

M